What are the stylistic differences in terms in the following expression, with an emphasis on the stylistic category of 'focus'? Some terms differ in more than one way between meanings. For example, 'tabs' is both a term for a type of stage curtains used at the sides and a more informally named item ('in' jargon/informal). "His Excellency the Life President, that stomach-full-of-bilge ...."

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In reply to an request for further clarification on the above answer:

In terms of stylistic "focus" with formal versus jargon:

"His Excellency the Life President" is formal and a sign of respect and deference, giving honor to a government official.

"that stomach-full-of-bilge" is, grammatically, an appositive providing a second "title" for the government official. Stylistically, it is jargon, slang and an insult and a sign of complete disrespect, dislike and animosity, giving ridicule and rejection to the government official.

In terms of total meaning, the person speaking MUST sound polite out loud but, in a whisper under their breath, ALSO sounds almost hateful toward the official. So for meaning, the actual message, which combines a formal focus with a jargon/informal focus, is that the official is rotten to the core.

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As I understand your question, you are answering a textbook assignment found in Style by John Haynes. If this is correct, you are studying le mot juste: "A very common view of style is that it is a matter of the careful choice of exactly the right word of phrase, le mot juste" (Haynes, Style). Haynes indicates there are two important general categories of these "right word" choices.

  1. The first category is "focus" of attention of the reader/listener.
  2. The second category is "relationship" established between writer/speaker and reader/listener.

When asked to emphasize "focus," you are being asked to identfy if the expressions in the assignment are focusing your attention [the reader's attention] to

  • details within a whole concept
  • or to the
  • whole concept while omitting the details (or by which you can infer details).

Expanding upon Haynes "car" example, I might emphasize the detail of "hybrid fuel car" and omit the wider conceptual information of "homemade" or "by Saturn." On the other hand, I might emphasize the whole concept of "Mercedes" and omit the detail of "antique diesel fuel engine." My attempt would be to focus the reader's attention to a different level of information in each.

In "His Excellency the Life President, that stomach-full-of-bilge ..." there are a couple of style differences but, starting with focus, the last phrase is a very specific detail that distinguishes this Excellency the Life President from any other Excellency the Life President. Thus the focus of the last phrase is on a detail, a part that represents the whole.

To complicate matters, the first phrase, "His Excellency the Life President," can conceivably represent any number of potentates and State Heads in any number of countries around the world. Thus, the first phrase represents and focuses the reader's attention on the whole concept and omits details (or had hoped to), while, as we've seen, the last phrase--the opposite of the first--is a detail that represents the whole.

The new question then is: What is the speaker's intended focus? Both phrases? Only one phrase? Perhaps looking at some other stlye differences in the last phrase will help sort this out. The last phrase is also:

  • emotive
  • dramatic
  • personal
  • evaluative

The subcategories of these stylistic differences, in relation to this phrase, are:

  • point of view: evaluating
  • proximal relationship: formal (distant proximity) followed by the informal (personal near proximity) focusing phrase
  • emotional distance: involved, not detached: the speaker wishes us to be involved, not detached, with this negatively evaluating point of view
  • nomenclature (linguistc register): colloquial slang

Our conclusion is that while civil duty and perhaps civil employment in the palace requires a whole, conceptual representation of the Head of State as befits a high and respected position of power, the speaker cannot (or will not) restrain personal feelings and point of view from exploding following the fulfillment of government duty in speaking with the highest respect of their President. Thus we determine that the answer to the question of focus is that the intended focus is the last phrase, "that stomach-full- ...." Thus the first phrase only provides the opportunity for the expression of an emotional, dramatic, personal, evaluation of someone disliked with the aim of gaining the listener's involvement in the evaluation by appealing to a proximal, informal relationship through the use of slang.

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